Saturday, September 17, 2022

How to make outstanding fajitas

Fajitas are probably the number one most delicious thing in this whole world to me. Why, without your fajitas, the whole darn shooting match can go arse over tea kettle. Here is how I make them (mostly taken from these two videos but adapted for my own preferences):

Fajitas: I use this guy's marinade and sometimes his refrigerator drying technique.

Flour tortillas - I don't use the same ingredient proportions, but this is the best video I've seen on technique, though it's long.

  1. Purchase your meat
    1. Skirt steak, and/or. . .
    2. Chicken breast
      1. Put your chicken breast between a couple of pieces of plastic wrap
      2. Beat it with a mallet or rolling pin or something to make it thinner and an even thickness throughout.
  2. Get you a yellow onion and a red bell pepper.
  3. Pico de gallo and avocado/guacomole is optional.
  4. Don't get sour cream. That's gross.
  5. Make your marinade
    1. 1/2 cup olive oil
    2. 1/4 cup lime juice
    3. 1/4 cup soy sauce
    4. 1 teaspoon salt
    5. 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
    6. 1/2 teaspoon ground cummin
  6. Put the chicken and/or beef in a 1 gallon freezer bag with the marinade, and put that in the refrigerator for two hours (or however long you feel like).
  7. Make the tortillas
    1. Turn on your oven light.
    2. Make the tortilla dough
      1. Put some water in a small pot, and put that on the stove on a low setting (like 3 if you're using an electric stove). This is just to warm the water up a bit.
      2. 200g flour
      3. 3g salt
      4. Just a pinch of baking powder. (More often than not, I don't put any baking powder in there at all; it's supposed to make the tortillas softer but the problem is that if you put too much, it makes them harder to roll out and get thin without snapping back.)
      5. 33g of lard or butter (I prefer butter).
      6. With your hands, work the lard/butter into the flour until the flour has the consistency of beach sand where it kind sorta kinda hold its shape when you squeeze some of it in your hand.
      7. Pour in 112g of the warm water.
      8. Mix it up with your hand, then use a bowl scraper to scrap it all out onto the counter.
      9. Knead it for five minutes or until you get tired of kneading it.
      10. Put it back in the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The light from the oven should make it the perfect warmth.
      11. Cut the dough in half, cut those halves in half, and cut those half halves in half (you should have 8 pieces altogether [You could double all the ingredients if you're making these for your family]).
      12. Tuck each piece under itself over and over so you kind of stretch the other side, then place the seam side down, and roll it around under your hand (There are YouTube videos showing how to do this. You're just trying to make balls.)
      13. Dip the balls in flour, and put them on a plate. Cover it with plastic wrap, and put them back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
    3. Cook the tortillas
      1. Heat your cast iron skillet (or griddle if you have one) up to medium (like 5 on an electric stove).
      2. Roll your dough balls out as thin as you can get them.
        1. I cut a plastic grocery bag up, put that on a tortilla press, and put the dough balls between the plastic, and smash them to get started. The dough won't stick to the plastic bag. The tortilla press is unnecessary. You can just start rolling the ball out. I like to get it started with the tortilla press because it helps me keep them round.
        2. Put some flour on your counter and put the dough on there, and start rolling it out with a rolling pin. There's a technique to it to make the tortillas perfectly round, and there are YouTube videos showing how.
      3. Put the dough/tortilla in the skillet (there's a technique for this, too).
      4. When it starts to bubble up, turn it over. Use a spatula to push it down when it keeps bubbling up. Once it's done, put it on a plate, a towel, a tortilla warmer, or whatever.
  8. Cut the onion and bell pepper up.
  9. Cook the meat
    1. Take the beef/chicken out of the marinade and put them between paper towels to take off the excess liquid. One trick I've tried is to put them on a wire rack in the refrigerator for another two hours to let them dry a little before cooking. Having them somewhat dry makes it easy to form a nice crust when you cook them, but it's not necessary. You can just dried them off with a paper towel. If you use a grill, you don't have to dry them off at all.
    2. Put your stove on medium high (like 7 on an electric stove), and heat your cast iron skillet up until it's smoking hot.
    3. Put your meat in (if you're using the skirt steak, put the fattiest side down first).
    4. Cook that for maybe 3 minutes on each side, then put it on a cutting board.
  10. Cook the onions and bell peppers
    1. Put your onions and bell peppers in the same skillet with the residue from the meat.
      1. If you used chicken instead of beef, add a little oil. It's probably not necessary to add oil if you used beef with a little fat on it.
    2. Cook that until the onions start to get soft, and put in a little salt and pepper.
  11. Cut your meat against the grain into strips.
  12. Now put your fajitas together and enjoy.

You're welcome.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Jehovah's Witnesses on the morality of blood transfusions

I argued in another post at another time that there's a difference between moral objectivism and moral absolutism. Moral absolutism is the view that moral principles are absolute in the sense they allow no exceptions. If something is wrong, then it's wrong at all times, in all places, for all people, under all circumstances, with no exceptions. Moral objectivism is the view that there are moral principles that are true independently of our preferences and beliefs, but one can be a moral objectivist and still believe there are exception to moral principles.

I was just thinking about how the question of whether there are exceptions to moral rules really depends on the granularity of the moral principles we're talking about. With the exception of a-moral choices (if there be any), you could state a moral rule for every single circumstance a person could possibly be in. But a moral rule book that contained all those statements would be impossibly long. Out of convenience, we speak of morality more generally than that. Instead of saying, "If you are in such and such situation, here's what you should do," we say, "You should be kind to people." Then we apply those more general principles to specific circumstances. We say that in general we should be kind to people, and since Bob is a person, we should be kind to Bob. Or we say since helping Bob move his furniture would be a kind gesture, we should help him move his furniture.

But there are degrees of generalization vs. specificity, which is what I mean by "granularity." If you had a really fine-grained moral rule book, then you might have one rule for each choice it's possible to make (e.g. when Jim drops his wallet this afternoon, you pick it up and give it to him). If you had a really course-grained moral rule book, you might just have two rules (e.g. Love God, and Love your fellow man). What occured to me as I was thinking about this was that the finer the granularity of your rule-book, the fewer exceptions we should expect their to be. If it were as fine as possible, then there wouldn't be any exceptions at all. At the same time, the more course the ganularity of your moral rule book, the more exceptions we should expect their to be.

As long as the Bible is, it's nowhere near as long as it would have to be for it to be a maximally fine-grained rule book. Instead, the Bible expresses moral principles in a general way. Some moral principles are more general than others. But that also means we have to allow for the possibility that some of the moral principles have exceptions.

Jesus explicitly taught this. While it is wrong to work on the Sabbath, for example, that rule can be overridden by a greater good--the good of saving life or healing. Just as it's right for you to rescue your mule even if it falls in a well on the Sabbath day, so also is it right for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath day.

There have to be exceptions to moral principles since there are such things as moral dilemmas. In general, it's wrong to lie, but if you're faced with lying to save somebody's life, or telling the truth and ending a life, you are probably justified in lying under those circumstances.

The Bible explicity forbids eating or drinking blood both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Jehovah's Witnesses interpret this prohibition as meaning that we shouldn't ingest blood in any way. So not only should we not take it into our bodies through our mouths, but we shouldn't take it into our bodies via tranfusion either. Personally, I think this is reading into the scripture something that isn't there at all, but let's suppose they are right, at least in a general sense. Let's suppose that at least in general it's wrong to take blood into your body through a needle inserted in your veins.

Nevertheless, this strikes me as being exactly the sort of thing Jesus was talking about. If a blood transfusion can save a life, then the value of the human life should trump the command to abstain from blood. The Jehovah's Witness refusal to allow for an exception to the general rule about blood drives them to what strikes me as being an immoral position--to allow people to die in order to observe the command to abstain from blood consumption. If we have an obligation to preserve life, then at the very least, this creates a moral dilemma since there are circumstances under which you can either preserve life or abstain from blood, but you can't do both. Which do you choose? If a Jehovah's Witnesses chooses to abstain from blood, are they not violating the principle to preserve life?

I haven't talked to a Jehovah's Witness or read their literature in a long time, but they used to answer arguments like these by saying there are alternatives to blood transfusions. So they attempt to avoid the moral dilemma by claiming you don't have to make that choice after all. I'm no medical professional, but from what I understand, they were just believing a myth. There is no artificial blood substitute that's just as good as blood. If there were, there wouldn't be all these desperate blood drives all the time. Blood transfusions are sometimes necessary to save life.

But let's suppose I'm wrong. Even so, this answer is evasive because the question remains: If blood tranfusion was necessary to save the life of your loved one (a child or parent), and you had to make the decision on their behalf since they've been in an accident and can't make the decision themselves, what should you do? In that case, you have to decide whether it's better to save a life by violating the prohibition against blood consumption, or to observe the prohibition against blood consumption by allowing somebody to die who you could've saved.

The irony in all of this is that the reason the Old Tesatment gives for why it's wrong to consume blood is because it's the blood that makes things alive. Blood has value because it symbolically represents life itself, and life is valuable. Well, if life is so valuable that we have to even respect that which gives life--blood--then it is the height of irony and madness to forfeit life in order not to consume blood. It's like being a general who surrenders his country in order to save his country's flag.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

A pro-choice inconsistency

Most people I've talked to are neither 100% pro-life nor 100% pro-choice. They all make exceptions under some circumstances. A pro-life person might make exceptions in the case of rape or incest. A pro-choice person might make an exception in the case of viability.

Arguments from bodily sovereignty are the strongest arguments the pro-choice side has going for them. As an honest pro-lifer, I have to admit that they carry some weight. I think we do have a right to bodily sovereignty. The question for me is whether that right is absolute. In other words, are there exceptions to it, and is the preservation of human life one example of an exception?

An inconsistency I've seen in a number of pro-choice people is to insist that the right to bodily sovereignty is absolute, but then to turn around and argue that abortion is morally permissible and should be legal up to viability, but it's immoral and should be illegal beyond viability. If abortion is something a woman does with her own body, and the right to bodily sovereignty is absolute, then to be consistent, shouldn't a pro-choice person who subscribes to these ideas advocate for the morality and legality of abortion right up until birth?

If you think Judy Jarvis-Thompson's violinist argument (or one like it) is a sound argument, then you're essentially saying that abortion would be permissible even if the unborn are full members of the human family. But if you make that argument, then it's inconsistent to turn around and say you think viability should be the cut-off point, and abortions should not be permissible beyond that.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Reasons vs. Justifications vs. Excuses vs. Rationalizations

I was just thinking about these things on my way home today while reflecting on a YouTube video I saw recently. It was a police interrogation, and the person who posted the video would pause it every now and then to give his own commentary. Although I don't remember anything else about the video, one part of it jumped out at me. The person being interrogated explained why he did whatever it is he did. The YouTuber paused the video and commented by saying something like, "He tried to justify his actions by saying. . ." Wait a minute I thought. All he did was explain his reason for acting. He didn't offer that reason as a justification.

As I was thinking about that on my way home, I began to recall times in my life where I've tried to explain why I did something only to have somebody respond by claiming I was making an excuse when that wasn't my intention at all. So I was thinking about the differences and similarities between reasons, justifications, excuses, and rationalizations, and thought, "Hey, I could blog about that!" So that's what I'm doing.

A reason for why you did something is nothing more than an explanation. You can explain your behavior in terms of your desires, your motivations, or whatever. If my reasons for committing a murder is so I can collect insurance money, and I'm open and honest about that, it doesn't mean I'm trying to justify it. I'm just telling you the reason I did it. Everything we do on purpose, we do for some reason, whether we had a good reason for it or not. So you can't automatically assume that if a person is explaining their reason for doing something that they are trying to justify it.

A justification is a kind of reason, though. Hadley Arkes talked about this a lot in his book, First Things. He thought the whole enterprise of morality was rooted in giving reasons for our behavior that are meant to serve as justifications for our behavior. A justification is a reason that's meant to explain why what you did was either good or at least not bad.

Rationalizations are like justifications. They are also reasons that are intended to serve as explanations for why what you did was right or at least not wrong. I think what makes something a rationalization instead of a mere justification, though, is in whether it's being offered honestly. When a person explains that they did something with some supposed good purpose in mind, but the person knows good and well that the purpose they had doesn't really justify their behavior, then it's a rationalization. It's a pretend justification. Sometimes the rationalization is just as much to convince ourselves as it is to convince others. Knowing that we are in the wrong about something makes us feel uneasy, especially if it involves a behavior we really like. It makes us feel even more uncomfortable if somebody else knows about it. So we attempt to rationalize in order to save face in front of others and in order to supress our own feelings of shame and guilt.

An excuse can be a justification or a rationalization. It all depends on how we use it. After all, there are good excuses and bad excuses. The word is mostly used with a negative connotation, though. For example, when somebody says, "That's just an excuse," they mean, "That's just a rationalization." After all, you'd never say, "That's just a justification." If it's legitimate justification, then we take the word, "just," out, and say, "That's a justification."

It's not always easy to tell when somebody is rationalizing and when they are offering a good justification. I sometimes even have to check myself on that. As I said, we all rationalize because none of us are perfect, and we all have a conscience. Most of us don't like to own our bad behavior. We want to find some kind of justification for it that lets us off the hook. But how do we know if we're being honest with ourselves about it? I guess that's just a matter doing some soul-searching and reflection. I think it is possible to fool yourself--to be persuaded of the legitimacy of your own rationalization as if it really justified your behavior.

I have more to say about that, but I think I'll save it for another post another time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

We got one!

I saw this video clip on YouTube the other day and thought it was hilarious. I laugh a little bit every time I think about it, so I figured it's worth sharing with you.

Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jews for Jesus

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Election in Molinism is impersonal

Calvinists and Molinists both subscribe to the idea that God elects people for salvation. The major difference is that in Calvinism, God's election is personal, but in Molinism, it is impersonal. Here, I am reproducing an email I wrote to somebody back in 2015 that I just stumbled across today where I explained Molinism then expressed one of the biggest problems I have with it.

In Craig's view, possible worlds are subdivided between feasible worlds and infeasible worlds. Feasible worlds are worlds that God can actualize, and infeasible worlds are worlds that he cannot actualize. And it is because of people's freedom and the counter factuals that apply to them that God cannot actualize those worlds.

Let's say there are two possible worlds in which Jim meets Bob. Both worlds are identical in everything that happens up to that meeting. In one of those possible worlds, Jim chooses to shake Bob's hand. In the other possible world, Jim chooses to not shake Bob's hand.

In reality, Jim would have the freedom to choose either way. So it's Jim who determines which of those worlds are actual, not God. There are counter factuals about Jim that are true of Jim prior to God actualizing any world at all. One of those counter factuals might be:

If Jim meets Bob, he will freely choose to shake Bob's hand.

If that counter factual is true, then if God actualizes a world in which Jim and Bob meet, then that world will be a world in which Jim freely chooses to shake Bob's hand. So God can't just actualize any possible world. If the counter factual is true, then God cannot actualize a world in which Jim meets Bob but does not shake his hand. It is our free choices that limit which worlds are feasible for God to actualize. What God does in Molinism is to choose between all the possible worlds that are feasible for him to actualize. But as Craig says, God has to work with the hand he has been dealt.

So to answer your question, the circumstances don't determine our choices in Molinism. We are free to choose one way or another. The counter factuals merely describe which choice we will in fact make in what circumstance. God, knowing what those counter factuals are, actualizes worlds containing situations where people choose the way God wants them to choose. But again, God's choices are limited by the counter factuals.

That raises the question of what makes the counter factuals true. It isn't God that makes them true, obviously. It seems to me that it would be us who determine them by what we in fact choose. But one of the major problems most people have against Molinism is that nothing makes the counter factuals true. They're just brute facts with no explanation.

The basis of God's choice is a matter of controversy between Molinists. Does he choose the feasible world that results in the most number of people saved? Or the best ratio of saved to unsaved? Or the greatest good over all? One thing that seems to be clear is that God doesn't choose individuals according to the kind intention of his heart and the good pleasure of his will.

That's one of my main complaints about Molinism. Suppose in World 1, Jim gets saved, but most other people don't. In World 2, Jim does not get saved, but most other people do. If God was trying to save the most people, he'd actualize World 2. Even though God would like to have saved Jim, he ended up having to sacrifice Jim to save the greater number of people. So it isn't individuals that God chooses to bestow his grace on. God doesn't save you or me because he loves us personally. He saves us because we were lucky enough to be among the saved in the particular possible world God chose to actualize.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Politics

Good morning. No, I didn't go to church this morning. That's why I'm writing now. In my defense, I have to pick my brother up from the airport this morning. I think Jesus will forgive me.

I have been really reluctant to write much about politics on this blog, although I guess I have touched on it in a few entries. I don't like politics because it seems to bring out the worst in people. It makes otherwise reasonable and intelligent people act silly, become mean, and throw fairness, reasonableness, and wisdom out the window.

It's ironic, but it seems like the older I get, the more I care about politics. It's ironic because the older you get, the shorter your time on earth remains, and the shorter your time remains, the less stake you have in the world. The less stake you have in the world, the less you should care about politics. Yet the opposite seems to happen. It isn't just me. I see it with other people, too.

I have been really tempted to post some political content lately. I've started three different posts on gun related issues, and they're still in draft. And now I've got things to say about Dobbs vs. Jackson and the politics behind abortion. I've been going back and forth over the last few weeks about whether I ought to say anything about gun related issues. I don't know if I want to go there on this blog, but at the same time, I have a lot to say.

Part of the reason I don't like politics is that I don't like conflict. I know that may seem strange given the fact that half of my internet presence involves argumentative writings, debate, and things like that. I used to enjoy a good debate as long as it happened in writing, but I've even lost my taste for that over the years. I've always disliked conflicts that happen in person.

I have some family members who it seems like never want to talk about anything but politics. And they don't seem to mind that it creates a lot of bickering, unpleasantness, and hard feelings. It makes me not want to be around them. I dread going over to somebody else's house sometimes because I just don't want to deal with it. I feel this way especially whenever there's something big in the news that's bound to lead to a political discussion.

But who knows? I haven't stuck strictly to religion and philosophy on this blog. I've even gone so far as to talk about bow building, knife making, and recipes. So why not politics? At least with politics we are dealing with the world of ideas and differing opinions. Maybe it's just because I don't want this blog to become unpleasant. I don't want it to descend into the muck of political discourse.

This blog is kind of like a refuge to me. I don't have many people in my personal life with whom I can exchange the kinds of ideas I talk about on this blog. If I didn't have this blog, I might explode from keeping my thoughts to myself. I could write about it in a journal, I suppose, and that might help. But since nobody would ever read my journal, it wouldn't be that much different than keeping it in my head.

Writing actually helps me think through things. It is hard for me to keep multiple thoughts in my head at once and to compare them and mull them over. But if I put it all in writing, I can have it all in front of me. This is hard to explain, but writing helps me think. Walking helps, too, of course. I think more clearly when I'm walking than when I'm sitting or lying down.

Writing is also a release. I can wrestle with something in my mind endlessly, but once I write it down, I feel like I can relax. I've gotten it off my chest. It makes me feel unburdened. Writing is a kind of therapy, I guess.

That might all be ruined if I started writing on subjects that just make people angry, especially if I started getting a lot of comments that just vented people's vitriol and didn't produce good brain-stimulating replies.

So I don't know. For now, I think I'll keep those political posts in draft and see how I feel in the future.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Dobbs v. Jackson

I was born in 1973, the same year as Roe v. Wade. Now I wonder if I'll die in 2022 since it has been overturned. Wouldn't that be poetic?

I don't have much to say about the decision today, but it's such an historic moment I feel like I ought to say something. So I just want to leave a short thought about it.

I understand why a lot of Pro-choice people would be very upset about the SC decision today. But I think people should be upset for the right reasons. Let's grant, for the sake of argument, that women have a right to abortion. I don't mean a legal right since that's what's being argued. I mean a natural right that ought to be enshrined in the Constitution.

Even if you grant that such a right exists, it shouldn't be the basis for your objection to Dobbs v. Jackson. The issue being decided today is not whether people ought to have the right to an abortion; rather, the issue is whether that right was implicitly in the Constitution to begin with. A lot of legal scholars, whether they were pro-choice or pro-life, have agreed that Roe v. Wade was decided wrongly.

One of the main objections that even showed up in the dissenting opinion was that it was an example of judicial legislation. The SC's job isn't to create laws. Rather, it's to judge whether a law coheres with the Constitution. But in creating a distinction between three trimesters, and giving states the right to restrict abortions to varying degrees, depending on the trimester, the SC was engaging in judicial legislation. The trimester distinction is nowhere found in the Constitution. Nor was it found in any precedent or tradition. It was created by the Supreme Court. That was the main fault of the decision.

If I were pro-choice, I might be very disappointed that a right that was once protected is no longer protected. But I don't see how I could really think Dobbs v. Jackson was wrong in overturning Roe v. Wade. If women actually do have a natural right to abortion, then the way to protect that right is either through legislation or through a Constitutional amendment. It is not through the Supreme Court making up law where none exists. That is not their job.